Modern Jewish History


Jewish civilization is one of the oldest and most influential components of world religion and history. Yet the Jewish people never possessed a large empire and always constituted a tiny minority in numerical terms, even in ancient times. In the modern period, Jews experienced an equally dramatic fate, including two pivotal events at the epicenter of the twentieth century: the unprecedented catastrophe of the Holocaust and the improbable rise of the State of Israel. All along, Jews have repeatedly surfaced at key junctures in the political, intellectual, and cultural moments that define our world.

In this course, we will seek explanations for this unique history through surveying the basic narrative of Jewish history from the sixteenth century to the present. We will focus on the political, social, religious, and cultural transformations of Jewish life and identity around the world. Major topics to be discussed include political emancipation and the Hebrew Enlightenment, Zionism and modern Jewish politics, antisemitism and the Holocaust, the divergent paths of American and European Jewries, and post-World War II relations between global Jewry and the State of Israel. We will also examine how Jewish history relates to modern European, American, and Middle Eastern history.

This is an introductory course that assumes no prior knowledge of Judaism or Jewish history. We will read and critically analyze a variety of primary and secondary sources, including religious, political, and legal writings, artistic images and musical recordings, and scholarly studies. Our goal is to introduce you not only to the study of Jewish history, but also the related academic fields of Jewish Studies, European history, and world history. Equally importantly, we aim to provide you with a concrete sense of the methods and questions that professional historians use to engage the past.

HIEU 2102 follows HIEU 2101, Jewish History I: The Ancient and Medieval Experience, though the two may be taken independently. For history majors, HIEU 2102 satisfies the post-1700 Europe (HIEU) requirement. The course also feels a core requirement for the Jewish Studies major.

            Requirements will include active course participation, two take-home short writing assignments, one short 500-word analytical essay, a midterm exam, and a final exam.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts